New Rochelle Searches for New School Superintendent

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In the February 7, 2014 issue of Soundview Rising

When the Superintendent of Schools in New Rochelle resigned recently for health reasons, their Board of Education began a search for a new superintendent. Joyce Furfero, co-chair of the Confederation of Neighborhood Associations, sent out the following notice:

"Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates is the search firm, retained by the New Rochelle Board of Education, to find a new Superintendent for the City’s School District. The firm is excited about serving the district and, over the next several weeks, its representatives will be intensively involved in meeting with and gathering input from students, parents, teachers, principals, public officials, and all other stakeholders in order to inform the Position Profile for identification of prospective Superintendent candidates.

This firm's criteria were listed: The three basic questions the firm is posing to all stakeholders are:
1. What are the strengths of New Rochelle school district?
2. What are the challenges and issues that the district faces now and in the future?
3. What are the characteristics you think are necessary for the next Superintendent?"
Methods used to collect data were listed: Four community forums and an online survey on the district’s website -- http://www.nred.org/

Apparently the district has already started to advertise for the position before the input process is complete.

At the first two forums the extensive publicity given to the residents was emphasized: robo calls went to all households in English and Spanish. The on-line survey, it was emphasized, is available to everyone. Stakeholders in this process are asked to select the eight most important characteristics that the new superintendent should have. The leadership profile of a new superintendent will be determined according to what the community wants.

At the second forum held at Albert Leonard Middle School the 27 people in attendance (seven of whom were at the first meeting at Isaac E. Young Middle School where 12 attended), thus making a total of 32 residents who had attended these two forums. The consultants at this second meeting requested positive feedback. Residents in the Albert Leonard neighborhood were generally pleased with the schools and the progress their children were making. There was some criticism of the large number of "programs" in the schools. The night before at Isaac E. Young vocal residents felt more emphasis was needed to improve instruction in the south of the city. The "divide" between the two middle schools was evident. All residents were urged to attended the last forums at the New Rochelle public library and the New Rochelle High School.

Audience members at the first forum in the south end of the city were concerned about the ethnic make-up of the schools and whether the schools in the southern part of the city received sufficient city services that fit the needs of the students. Laraine Karl alluded to the gap between the north and south end schools by saying salespeople will tell you to "buy a house in the north part of the city." Mark McLean brought out the need to address the minority make-up of the district which is now at 70%.

The most lively exchange of views that evening occurred when Vincent Malfetano requested the list of residents' names that had been given to the consultants by the Board of Education so the consultants could talk to these residents before deciding which criteria would be useful. The board of education had already given this apparently confidential list to the consultants, School Board President, David Lacher, gave a long reply on the appropriateness of the request. Malfetano, a New Rochellean long involved in educational and political affairs who also attended the search forum at Isaac Young Middle School the night before, asked Mr. Lacher to release to the public the list of individuals and organizations drawn up by the school board and given to the search firm to be contracted for private input. Malfetano suggested that the public had "a right to know who the school board thinks is important to talk to about whom to hire." He added, "This process needs to be transparent." Mr. Lacher replied he "didn't know" if he would release the list. So far the list has not been released.
About 75 residents attended the last forum which was held at New Rochelle High School. There was a group of about 25 Spanish speaking parents and a translator. The consultants again said they were following their three original questions. The first criteria was strengths of the New Rochelle schools and Robert McCaffrey promptly asked why neighborhood associations had not been contacted by the consultants to meet with them. He was told recommendations of who to speak to was given them by the Board of Education. Pearl "Quarles, a former Board President, gave an example of a previous superintendent that had been hired to turned out to be, "not what they wanted," or what the people wanted.

Strengths for the Superintendent of Schools were cited as the ability to close the achievement gap in New Rochelle. Robert Cox felt the Superintendent should speak fluent Spanish. Isaac E. Young's students' achievement needs to be improved.

This week the Vice President of the School Board, Lianne Merchant, had lashed out at another board member, Jeffrey Hastie, who was a member of the United Citizens for a Better New Rochelle. Merchant accused Hastie of bringing down the Echo Bay proposal and the Mayor, and asked the Board of Education to deny the United Citizens group an already scheduled meeting with the consultants manging the superintendents' search. The meeting was canceled and criticism of this decision has been widely criticized in the community.

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